Getting surgery is a big decision, especially as we get older. While there exist some situations where surgery is unavoidable, being of an advanced age often puts people at elevated risk for complications. The elderly do not heal as quickly as they once did, their organs may not be as robust as they once were, and they have an increased likelihood of having multiple health conditions.
However, a new study finds that these assumptions may not be entirely warranted, as it was found that seniors over the age of 65 gain as much benefit from herniated disc surgery as younger patients.
Potential complications of surgery
Going under the knife in an operating room is scary, but in reality, everything is taken into account to give you the best chances of success possible. With that said, there are still certain risks that can occur. The following are some of the more common risks:
- Anesthesia complications: This is the procedure that puts you to sleep, and it’s an integral part of the surgery process. Anesthesia involves inserting a tube down the trachea to help with breathing. This may cause a complication called “aspiration,” which causes food or fluid to enter the lungs, potentially leading to severe complications.
- Bleeding: While this is to be expected with surgery, too much bleeding can be a problem. When excessive bleeding occurs, a transfusion may be necessary.
- Blood clots: These commonly occur after surgery during the recovery period. These can be mitigated with the use of anticoagulation medication, but that may also come with its own risks.
It is true that being of advanced age puts you at greater risk for all the aforementioned dangers, leading most of the elderly to forgo such invasive procedures.
Better results found in older patients
A group of researchers looking into rates of herniated disc surgery have found that the elderly who opted for surgery experienced less back pain afterward compared to their younger counterparts.
A herniated or “slipped” disc occurs when one of the spinal cushions of the back gets damaged and becomes displaced, leading to back pain. While some do find relief with heating pads, exercise, and pain medication, people with severe pain or disability may need surgery.
The study in question included nearly 5,200 patients under the age of 65, with 380 patients over that age. While outcomes were found to be good in the older patients, it was noted that they did experience an increased number of minor complications and had slightly longer hospital stays. These were only minor details and they didn’t affect the success of the treatment, according to the researchers.
“This study shows that it is fully possible to do good surgical research on elderly patients,” said study lead Mattis Madsbu, a medical student Norwegian University of Science and Technology.